Dallas — Run! Run! Run Jane, run Spot, and run some more! Tearing across stage has become a cliché in modern dance so much so that when a choreographer puts it to use there ought to be some purpose. In Robert Dekkers’ Wild and Precious, performed Wednesday night in the Fall Dance Concert by the Meadows Dance Ensemble at Southern Methodist University, there was none.
In fact, despite the clever title, the whole work seems pointless—energetic and spirited yes, but devoid of structure and variety. Bouncy music and fitted body suits of peacock vibrancy gave the program a certain liveliness, but the huge ensemble (25 dancers) made for an unwieldy program. Besides the endless runs, dancers slide on sock feet, leapfrog, tiptoe, swing arms and flip-flop on the floor.
The company rectified itself with José Limón’s 1956 There is a Time and Danny Buraczeski’s 1994 Swing Concerto.
The solemnity of There is a Time comes in part from elusions to the text of Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, and just as significantly, Limón’s heroic lines and emphasis on the dynamic use of weight. The dancers didn’t quite get that resistance to gravity, but for the most part captured Limón’s fluid succession of one movement to the next.
It opens with “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,” where twelve dancers form a circle facing inward. They hold arms far apart to create tension, and slightly sway. The theme of circles resurfaces many times, and comes to a final ending with “A time to love…a time of peace.”
The dress—long, flowing white dresses for the women and dark short trousers and peasant shirts for the men—suggest a period when life was a communal affair, making the passage of time have greater significance.
Among the most arresting episodes:
In “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak” Samantha Chiesa moves slowly, hand to mouth as though trying to keep words abeyant. From the other side of the stage, Alex Druzbanski stomps in, clapping and slapping chest and knees while others clap from the sidelines. Mr. Druzbanski’s manner is bombastic, lifting a knee, then a leg, then dropping low, all the while continuing to make loud noise.
In “A time to laugh...a time to dance,” a charming Jennifer Nelson flits about, a wreathe over her head, forever changing direction, and stirring up her skirt’s pale rosy underlayer like a breeze.
The most touching moment comes in “A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” there the kneeling Michael Stone holds Emily Reiff aloft so that her body forms a beautiful upward arch, lowers her, and she drapes her body over his.
In “A time to hate, a time of war,” Hope Endrenyi explodes through space, her manner as wild as her long black hair.
Swing Concerto idealizes an era when couples spent their Saturday night on the dance floor, the lighting murky and the music loud and jaunty. The boisterous Klezmer music of Eastern Europe turns later to the more freewheeling swing music of Artie Shaw, Louis Prima and Benny Goodman, with dancers wearing rich colors of rust, persimmon and in outfits reminiscent of the 1940s. In the first (Klezmer music) section, dancers move low to the ground, hips swiveling and knees lifted and heads jerking. They let loose in the jazzy swing section with slides, tosses and daring last minute catches.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.